‘Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ review: It’ll slay you
March 19, 2019
By: Barbara Schuler
You have to have a lot of faith in a show to start it off with a song that suggests the audience, at least those “faint of heart,” might want to leave. “Blood may spill … so if you’re smart, before we start, you’d best depart,” the cast sings in the opening moments of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport.
No worries. Everyone at the performance I attended stayed in their seats and survived the delightful romp of a show by Robert L. Freedman (book) and Steven Lutvak (music), winner of the Tony Award for best musical in 2014. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for all the characters, any number of whom get bumped off in the course of the show after the impoverished Monty Navarro (Sean Yves Lessard, as adorable a serial killer as you’re likely to meet) learns from a family friend that he’s a member of the prominent D’Ysquith family and ninth in line to become Earl of Highhurst.
Murder and mayhem result as Monty embarks on a campaign to do away with everyone ahead of him in the line of succession — all remarkably played by the talented and hardworking Danny Gardner, last seen at Engeman as Don Lockwood in “Singin’ in the Rain.” Gardner puts all he ever learned in acting class to work as he plays the entire D’Ysquith family, among them the doddering priest, the stodgy banker, the country bumpkin, the aging actress, all coming to their doom (skating accidents, slippery roofs, Monty is quite creative) in a flurry of witty if not especially memorable songs that meet somewhere between operetta and British music hall.
The love part of the title is represented by two young women who have their sights set on Monty — the social climbing Sibella and distant cousin Phoebe played, respectively, by big-voiced Broadway veterans Kate Loprest and Katherine McLaughlin. The triangle comes to a head in the amusing, farcical “I’ve Decided to Marry You” with Monty an absolute riot as he only barely manages to fend off the two ladies.
Director Trey Compton and choreographer Vincent Ortega maintain a brisk pace. The cast (especially Gardner) makes quick changes that are often visible in the background of Nate Bertone’s clever set, bordered by portraits of the D’Ysquith clan that get X’d out as they do. It’s all great fun, which is something you can’t often say about a play with multiple murders. Certainly, who did them is no mystery.